Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

required no great (kill in the drawing, nor embellishment in the colouring. Nor was it difficult to shew how inadequate their present half-pay was, either to the supporting of the high acquired rank, which they held in virtue of their commissions, or of their private, merely as gentlemen.

It was also shewn in beha's of the petition, that from the reign of Queen Elizabeth, to the year 1715, when they were placed upon the present establishment, the naval captains had been always .highly rewarded, either by profitable employments, by particular gratifications, or by an half-pay, double to what they now receive, when out of commission; though the prices of all the necessaries of life, and expences of every fort, luve since increased in an amazing degree, and that their rank is now much higher than it was in that period. It was concluded, that tbe petition should not so much be considered a request, as ajustclaim upon the public.

Though nothing could be more unpopular in this country, where all people are attached to the navy, than an opposition to this petition, and that tne officers of that department, are in themselves a considerable, as well as respectable body; yet, however it happened, the minister set his face entirely against it, and though he acknowledged the merit of the petitioners, and granted their having a claim on the public for favour and support, opposed it upon the principle of a due attention to the present situation os our finances, and to the inability of the state to increase its «xpences; he observed, that the admission of thi? .claim, would open

a door to others, in which, whether equally well founded, the relief would not appear less needlul; that the military have th_"ir claims; as well as the navy; and the shipwrights, a very serviceable and necessary order of men, intended to apply for an increase of wages; that there may be others in the service of government, whose wants, may be greater, though their merits were less, and whom it might be much wished to relieve in these times of distress; but that as such general relief was absolutely impracticable, the receiving os some applications,, and rejecting others, would be inconsistent with that impartial justice which the public owes to all thole who have acted well in their several stations in its service, and whom it would be impossible to provide for according to their rank and merit.

On the other hand it was alledged, that the object of this teconomy in so particular a cafe, wherein it should be less considered than ajmost any other, would amount only to about 6000 1. per annum. Jt was accordingly productive of" much severe animadversion, not unmixed with ridicule: the lar^e sums, which not long since had been voted for •virtu, and upon other occasions, which appeared of much less consequence, whether considered with regard to the interest, the justice, or the generosity os the public, were immediately recalled, and thrown into every point of comparison with the present requisition. It was said to be truly laughable, after a ten years glorious peace, to hear from the sirlt authority, that the finances of a great and opulett nation were in so wretched a state, that she could not afford so small a pittance, pittance, for the relief of persons to whom her power and glory was so much indebted; while the French King, who was represented to be in the moil ruinous circumstances, had settled a provision on his naval captains, which nearly doubled our half-pay. Several gentlemen produced instances upon their own knowledge, of brave officers, whose services in the late war had been known to every body, and who were now languishing with large families, or oppressed with sickness, in a state of distress that must excite the most melancholy reflections 6n being known.

To the surprise of many, probably to the surprise of the minister himself, he was desefted by a number of those, <jn whose firm support in all cases, whether from pfficeor connexion, he had cause to xely. Upon a division, the peti_ , , tion was received by a 9 " majority of nine, the numbers being 154. to 145. A committee was accordingly appointed to examine the matter of the petition, and after the necessary enquiries to make a report; in consequence of which, after some additions proposed in the committee, which were rejected by the House, the original request was agreed to, and an address presented to the throne, for an addition of two shillings a day to the captains halfpay.

Notwithstanding the fate of the Diss-nters bill last year in the House of Lords, another, upon similar principles, but with some additions, was this session brought into the House of Commons. The fortune

of this bill was exactly the fame as that cf the preceding year; it was carried throqgh all its stages in the one house by a great majority, and rejected in the same manner by the other. The only remarkable circumstance that distinguiihed the present, was it? being opposed by petitions from several congregations, who called themselves Protestant Dissenters, and who appear to have been principally compoled of the people who aro generally known under the denomination df Methodists. The petitions were however «,, . , received, and they March 25th. were heard by council at the bar of the House of Commons against passing the bilj.

A motion was also made for a committee of the whole House, to consider qf the subscription, to the 39 articles of the church of England, or any other tests now required of persons in the universities. We hive seen last year, a petition from certai 11 of the clergy and other s, for relief in the matter of subscription, with an account of the reception it met with in the House of Commons; though the mode was new changed, the tendency was nearly the fame, and the ground of argument not very different. The motion was, howeverf well supported, and produced a very considerable debate; but was at length rejected by a great majority, as the former had been, the numbers being 159 to 64. We so, sully discussed these subjects when they first originated, that a repetition now of them would be ju. perfluous.

CHAP

CHAP. VIII.

Proposals 'from the East-India Company for a loan. Papers. Resolutions relative to the lean. Right to the territorial pojfrstions questioned. I Resolutions for restraining the dividend, contrary to the proposals delivered by the Company ; great debates thereon.. Resolutions for continuing the territorial acquisitions in the Company for fix years, and relative to the suture participation and disposal os the surplus profits. Debates. Exportation of teas duty-free. Petition from the East India Company against the foregoing resolutions. Bill for rec'tlating the affairs of the East-India Company, as vjell in India as in Europe. Lord Clique's conduit in India arraigned. Resolutions. Final resolution in his favour. Petitions, from the East-India Company, the city of London, and the proprietors of less than 1OOO /. capital stock, against the regulation bill; counsel heard against it; great debates j bill passed. Protests. Speech from the throne.

A Petition was presented fronj the East-India Company, setting forth, that finding themselves under a necessity of applying to parliament for relief, they hoped they should be esteemed worthy of receiving it, in the manner, and upon the terms, specified in several propositions, which were included therein. The principal of these, were a requisition for a loan of 1,500,0001. for four years, ac four per cent, interest, with liberty of repaying the fame, as soon as the Company was able, in payments of not less than 300,0001. and that the Company should not make a dividend of more than six per cent. until the loan should be reduced to 750,0001. that then they might raise their dividend to eight per cent; and after the whole loan was discharged, that the surplus of the nett profits arising in England, above the said dividend, should be appropriated to the payment of the Company's bond debt, until it was reduced to 1,500,0001. and from thence, that the surplus profit: should be equally divided be

tween the public and the Company. It was also requested, that the Company should be released from the heavy penal interest incurred by the non-payment of money, owing in consequence of the late acts for the indemnity on teas, and discharged from the annual payment of the 400,0001. to the public for the remainder of the five years specified in the agreement.

It was farther proposed on the side of the Company, that the accounts of the Duannee revenues, of the charges of collection, of the civil and military expences of Bengal, together with the amount of the Company's sales, charges, debts owing, bills drawn upon them, and goods in their warehouses, should be delivered annually to parliament; and it was desired, that leave might be given to export teas free of all duty, to America, and to foreign parts.

Some reports from the secret committee had also been received at this time; and as designs upon the Company's territorial possessions were apprehended to be in

con

contemplation, a gentleman, who had been chancellor of the Exchequer in a former administration, moved, that several papers, which Had passed betweei\the English and French ministers, previous to the laic peace, relative to the affairs of the India Companies of both nations, should be laid before the House. These papers tended to shew, that so far as the sentiments of the crown at the time of the peace, could be collected from those of its ministers, it was understood that the East-India Company had an exclusive and undoubted right to those territories it possessed, whether acquired by conquest or otherwife. In one of them was read the following remarkable passage: ••' Respcting-those territorial acquisitions the Englilh East-India Company have made in Alia, every dispute relative thereto must be settled by that Company itself, the crown of England having no right to interfere, in what is allowed to be die legal and exclusive property of a body corporate belonging to the Englilh nation.'•'

., , , Aster the East-In

March oth. ,. ... , , ,

? dia petition had been

read, the first lord of the treasury, in introducing the subject of the loan, observed, that the granting of relief to the Company was a matter of necessary policy, and expediency; but in no degree, a claim of right of.of justice, as had been represented; and having taken notice of the various methods that had been suggested for that purpose, proposed the following resolutions, which were agreed to, viz. That it is the opinion of this House, that the affairs of the East-India Company are in ;fcch a state w to require parliamen.

tary assistance. That a loan os 3 sum of money is necessary to reinstate the Company's affairs. That a supply of 1,400,9001. be granted, to the Company. Provided ;it the same time, due care shall be taken, that the necessary regulations be adopted, to prevent the Company's experiencing the like exigencies in suture.

The miniiler upon this occasion, though he waved, for the present, any particular discussion of the point, not only called in question the Company's claim of exclusive right to its territorial possessions, but insisted upon a prior right in the state; from whence he inferred the justice and legality of its interposing its authority In all cafes in that Company's affairs. He observed, that this doctrine was not peculiar to himself; and that several persons of great knowledge in the laws, had dechred it as their opinion, " that such territorial possessions as the subjects of any state sliall acquire by conquest, are virtually the property of the state, and not of" those individuals who acquire them."

Though this was a.matter rather of conversation than debate^ such an avowal from that quarter, was thought too dangerous to be passed over without animadversion. It was said, that the relation which those opinions could hive to the Company, depended solely upon the manner of stating the question; that in certain circumstances they were very just, and were not to be contested, when territorial possessions were acquired und«r the authority of the state; but that when the state, (as in the present instance) has in the most solemn and Authentic mariner, delegated thax

authpauthority to a distinct and separate body, it can never, without a breach of the conditions on which it was granted, be resumed, without the most manifest injustice and flagrant violation of public faith; that such doctrines were subversive of all true commercial principles; and were equally inconsistent with the high rights of the royal prerogative, the faith and honour of parliament, and that right of confirmed property, which every man, and every body of men, have, or ought to have, in their legal acquisitions. It was further observed, that the Company's posseilions in India were not in strictness conquests; that they were farms held from the prince who was their proprietor and rightful owner; but that a question of property of that nature, was to be decided in a court of justice, and was not a proper subject os discussion there, where the public, who were themselves interested parties, would thereby become the judges in their own cause.'

March z3d. I" some time aster, '. the two following resolutions were proposed by the minister, and passed without a division, *' That supposing the public should advance theloan to the EastIndia Company, it is the opinion of this committee, that the Company's dividend mould be restrained to six percent, until the repayment of the sum advanced." And, " that the Company be allowed to divide no more than seven per Cent, until their bond debt be reduced to 1,500,000!."

In the first stating of these propositions, the following words were added to the second; but were afterwards struck oat, vis* "and

Vol. XVI.

no more than eight per centi before the participation of profits between the public and the Company should take place."

As these restrictions were contrary to the terms proposed by the Company in its petition to the House, they were productive of considerable debates. They were supported, on the undoubted right which every creditor had, previous to his parting with his money, to exact such conditions and stipulations from the. borrower, as he thought necessary for his own security; and it was insisted, upon the foundation of the reports made by the secret committee, of the state of the Company's affairs, that ic could not with justice to the public, and a due attention to the welfare of the proprietary, afford to make a greater increase of dividend. It was hinted, that the Company had been guilty of an act of delinquency, by exceeding its legal powers in the amount of its bond debt; and it was intimated, that it probably would hereafter be thought necessary, to agitate the question of -Right, as to the territorial possessions in parliament. As a salvo, however, to the apprehensions excited by these dangers, it was also thrown out, that when the proposed reduction,of the bond debt had taken place, and the loan was repayed to the public, the treasury might then, perhaps, contribute a moiety of its share of the participation, entirely to reestablish the affairs of the Company.

On the other hand, the representations of the Company's affairs, that had been made by the secret committee, were declared to be extremely erroneous; the injury

s »G1 that

« ZurückWeiter »